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User Experience Design

(January 24, 2005) - History will recall the first web explosion as the dawning of the age of user experience design. With the web's phenomenal ability to measure and report the transactional aspects of encounters with users, an explosion of experimentation and improvement followed. Many aspects of the experience a user has are controllable.

But it takes a disciplined process.

The first and most important principle of experience design is a mind-bender: You cannot control the user's experience. The harsh reality is that you have no control over the user's disposition, tastes, environment, politics, or philosophy. These elements (which are probably controllable by the user) are the true shapers of her experience. When it comes to the intimate details of a user's experience, all you can do is test and improve. The results will be statistical.

That's why strategy (or embrand identity) is the foundation of the design of user experience. The only way to be clear about whether or not the user is having the experience you desire is by knowing explicitly what you desire that experience to be.

That sounds ridiculously straightforward. But the devil is in the details. The management of an Employment Brand (embrand) involves having a clear idea of the outcome you desire from each of tens of thousands of transactions between users and your website, your recruiting staff, company employees, collateral literature, job ads, print information, phone systems and all of the elements that could possibly be a platform for interaction with a potential employee. Without a disciplined process in place, it is impossible to begin to control the things that can be controlled. If you cannot manage these details, influencing the user's experience is problematic.

Many HR folks simply give up at this point in the conversation. It's easier to check off the "Brand Management" box on this year's objectives by outsourcing the work to a hack advertising agency. The agency will strain and groan over the hard work of logo creation, print material development, website navigation and a thousand other graphics chores. The company ends up with a 'branding effort' that produces images but no organizational consistency.

Unfortunately, agency processes do not bring the embrand under real management. As we've said before, the embrand is the sum total of all user/potential employee experiences with the company. Getting the pretty graphics right (i.e., making sure that there's a picture of a guy in a wheelchair and representative colorations in the skin tones of employee pictures in brochures) is a far cry from managing the consistent delivery of a consistent message across all platforms and situations.

The first step is the development of an ongoing Recruitment Strategy process. The core elements are:

  • Workforce Planning (What Do We Need?)
  • Labor Market Realities (What Is Available Now and In The Future?)
  • Embrand Identity (What are our values, how do we communicate them?)

Getting started takes a couple weeks of hard and committed work from the executive team. It takes routine follow-up on a monthly and quarterly basis.

With a user experience design process in place, the real costs of recruiting can be planned and understood. Without one, budgets are simply reactive and out of control. The question for Recruiting shops to consider is whether or not to launch this sort of effort now, while there is some schedule slack, or wait until the workload is exploding.

 John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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